When the change process is difficult it is difficult for a reason. The reason is that it makes demands on us. We might look at those demands in a future article (let me know if you would be interested in such an article), but for now let’s consider two general aspects about the demands of change.

Self-Summoning or Self-Transforming?

Self-summoning change demands that you summon your resources and bring them to the table. If the change is relatively easy, you will have more than enough resources to be successful. But more difficult change might push you to the limit of your resources. You will need to ‘pull all stops out’ and summon everything you’ve got to succeed at the change.

Self-transforming change demands that you go beyond the current limits of your resources. It requires you to grow. If you want to be successful, you must allow the change to change you. It calls you to transcend the current limits of your capacity, to go out beyond your comfort and safety zone, and to become a bigger person.

Self-transforming change is generally more difficult than self-summoning change because it demands all you’ve got and then more.

This distinction is useful, but we can explore the demands further by thinking about distinctions between change projects.

Simple, Complicated, or Complex Change?

These three types of change differ in two ways. First, they differ in how clear the relationship is between cause and effect. In simple change, it is relatively easy to see how cause and effect are related to each other. An example of this would be creating online ads, like Facebook ads. You could create an ad and see how it performs in the analytics. Then, you could make a change to the ad (say, change the headline, or change an image) and then see how that affects performance of the ad.

In complicated change, it is more difficult to understand what the variables are and how they might affect outcomes. This is largely the domain of experts who possess specific and in-depth knowledge of an area. An example of this would be making changes to a financial portfolio where expert knowledge is needed to evaluate which investments are likely to provide the best yields.

In complex change, it is unclear what all the variables are and there may be no definitive way to determine how variables contribute to outcomes. An example of this would be starting a business. If the business is experiencing significant problems, you may decide to call upon the services of an expert (e.g., a business analyst), but this may not reveal any of the factors that are causing most of the problems. At the end, you still might be unclear of what is wrong or how to fix it.

As a rule, increasing complexity increases the demands of the change process. For example, improving how a Facebook ad campaign performs is relatively easy and may only require you to change some text, change an image, or make changes to your audience. For most people, this would not be too hard. But making beneficial changes to an investment portfolio is much harder and requires some expertise. Without first gaining expert knowledge, it would be easy to make a mistake and lose money. Gaining such expert knowledge would push many people to the limits of their current capacity, or even beyond it.

Changing how a business performs may be even more difficult. The main cause of poor performance may be the personal limitations of the business owners or its employees. In order to achieve better performance outcomes, the people involved may need to change how they think, how they speak, how they relate, and how they behave.


Bringing this together, we can see that self-summoning change is often easier than self-transforming change, and that increasing change complexity often corresponds with a movement towards self-transforming change.

The more demanding a change is on the person, the more change fitness is required for success. Change fitness is the wellspring of our change capacity. In other words, it is the deep inner psychological capacity to meet the demands of the change process. It impacts how we think about change, how we react to it, and how we behave around it.

A good analogy to help understand this is physical fitness. If a swimmer wants to improve their performance and compete at a more demanding level, they will need to improve their swimming stroke, improve their breathing, improve their speed, and improve their style. But none of that will happen if they don’t also improve their fitness. They need to build their heart-lung capacity, develop muscle strength, develop more endurance. And they also need to work on their mind. They need a success mindset.

It’s the same with change. If you want to make more difficult changes, you need to build your change fitness.

The good news is that change fitness can be developed. If you have struggled in the past with difficult change – or if you find change difficult – you can become better at it. Change fitness coaching significantly helps more people.

So, if you want more change fitness, or if you know people who need more change fitness, I invite you to have a chat with me or another trained change fitness coach.

Dr Steve Barlow

Steve Barlow
Author: Steve Barlow

Steve heads up The Change Gym. He is a change readiness specialist. You can contact him at steve@thechangegym.com.